It’s always a bit melancholy to read the last book of a favorite author. This was uncompleted at Diana Wynne Jones’ death, and finished by her sister. I should say up front that I could not detect any change of voice or tone, and the book read as a complete and well-rounded story.
Chaldea is a group of three islands that used to be four. All the islands have magic and magic users, and the magicians of Logra have cut their island off from the world with magic, creating an invisible wall around it. This has made life difficult for everyone in Chaldea. Trade routes are disrupted, fishing grounds are unreachable, families are divided, and it’s even worse for the few Lograns left behind in Chaldea, like Ogo, even if he is a member of the King’s court on the island of Skarr. Aileen’s Aunt Beck is a Wise Woman with magic ability, the King’s advisor, and she and Aileen are summoned to the King’s castle by Ogo. There are disputes to settle, but later the real reason for the gathering is revealed: a prophecy about how the barrier around Logra can be broken has been discovered. It requires a Wise Woman from Skarr to travel to the other islands collecting a partner from each, and then somehow traveling to Logra. Aunt Beck is reluctantly convinced to undertake this perilous journey, and Aileen must go with her. Ogo will join them, representing Logra, and they will need to find willing partners on the other islands.
The quest format is a familiar one, but Jones makes it fun and fresh through lots of unexpected plot turns, humor, and vivid characters. Even though the goal is clear, reaching it is never predictable, and there are plenty of interesting adventures along the way. When the quest team is finally ready to attempt the journey to Logra, they must do it by hot air balloon, and what they find on Logra is both surprising and frightening.
I enjoyed this thoroughly. Recommended.